The gospel for today is the story of the “Dishonest Steward” (Luke 16:1-8). These verses are the parable itself but it is good to note that the application of the parable continues in vv.9-13. The additional verses are:
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Our reading (plus the extra verses) can be divided into four sayings:
- the shrewd manager (16:1-8a)
- worldly wisdom (16:8b-9)
- trust in trivial matters (16:10-12)
- serving two masters (16:13-14)
Our reading brings about many different perspectives, including but not limited to:
- The point of the parable is not the servant’s dishonesty, but his wise decision-making in the time of crisis.
- The servant is a man of the world, who works and thinks with diligence to protect his interest.
- The parable may be an irony
- There are suggestions that the steward was acting within his legal rights in reducing the debts as he did.
- The parable can be about the right and wrong use of money.
- The parable might center on the word for “squander” (diaskorpizo). The same word is used concerning the “prodigal son” (15:13)
- The parable is about securing our future.
A longer, detailed commentary is needed to unpack all those thoughts. But I will leave you with Craddock’s (Luke, Interpretation Commentaries) concludes his comments with:
The life of a disciple is one of faithful attention to the frequent and familiar tasks of each day, however small and insignificant they may seem. The one faithful in today’s nickels and dimes is the one to be trusted with the big account, but it is easy to be indifferent toward small obligations while quite sincerely believing oneself fully trustworthy in major matters. The realism of these sayings is simply that life consists of a series of seemingly small opportunities. Most of us will not this week christen a ship, write a book, end a war, appoint a cabinet, dine with the queen, convert a nation, or be burned at the stake. More likely the week will present no more than chance to give a cup of water, write a note, visit a nursing home, vote for a county commissioner, teach a Sunday school class, share a meal, tell a child a story, go to choir practice, and feed the neighbor’s cat. [pp. 191-192]
The steward should have been attentive to the small things. Later in this same chapter, a similar lesson is found in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man surely should have paid more attention to the “small things” like Lazarus.
Perhaps today’s gospel message can be as simple as “Keep in mind the big picture and work on the small things.”
Image Credit: Parable of the Unjust Steward(A.N. Mironov), CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons